Rocky Long’s elite Aztec football squad cannot rest on their laurels against Army’s triple option.
2017 ARMED FORCES BOWL: Army Black Knights (8-3, Independent) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, December 23 — 2:30PM CST
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium; Fort Worth, Texas (50,000)
TV / STREAMING: ESPN and WatchESPN
It’s not that San Diego State is disappointed to face the Black Knights in the Armed Forces Bowl. Rather, the Aztecs are upset that the NCAA, ESPN, and most of the college football community are sleeping on their formidability. This team is still in disbelief that the nation’s best running back, Rashaad Penny, was not just passed over for the Doak Walker Award, he wasn’t even recognized as a finalist.
Army is a very good team and make no mistake: they could win this game. Nonetheless, the Aztecs sought a Pac-12 opponent- possibly USC in the Foster Farms Bowl. Until Wisconsin lost their first game, Foster Farms was open for the Aztecs. So now, the Aztecs will make the most of their eighth straight bowl game giving Army football fans an entertaining match.
Army: A Closer Look
For the second time in program history, the Black Knights are bowling in back-to-back seasons. Army coach Jeff Monken has built an impressive program at West Point, and before him the team had made a bowl game just twice since 1989. That’s serious progress.
This Army team, as usual, leans on the triple-option offense to run the ball to victory. The Knights threw zero passes in a win against Air Force in Week 10, which is straight-up Army. Let’s get one thing straight: Jeff Monken does not like passing.
Here are a few other key points that Aztecs fans should know about the Army Black Knights.
1. Ahmad Bradshaw is Dangerous
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has carried the ball 189 times this year for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the key piece in the offense, and has the ability to confuse defenses with Army’s triple option. He has a lot of talented running backs to draw from: Darnell Woolfolk, Kell Walker and Andy Davidson have all combined with Bradshaw for 3,210 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground.
Off the gridiron, however, a former cadet named Madeline Lewis accused Bradshaw of rape in 2014. Lewis claims she was run out of West Point, while Bradshaw was made captain of the football team. Then, Bradshaw allegedly violated West Point’s famous honor code in 2016 by cheating. Bradshaw was not among 56 cadets dismissed in 2016.
2. Formidable Army Ground Game
Averaging 6.2 yards per rush, Army is wise to keep the ball on the ground, because their ground game is for real. Army won THREE games without throwing a single pass. Their season high in-pass completions is eight, and neither Bradshaw nor backup quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. have completed more than five passes in any game. The triple option allows you to do that.
3. Rapidly Evolving Defense
Army is 8-3, but keep in mind two of those losses were by a combined seven points. A big reason is the play of a new defense that replaced many starters this year, including their key linebackers. Players like Cole Chrisiansen and James Nachtigal have stepped up, but Alex Aukerman has been the difference maker. Aukerman has 14.5 tackles for loss with six sacks. So it’s not just the offense you have to worry about.
In a Nutshell
This bowl game is sure to be The Battle of the Backs. Between Bradshaw, Army’s cadre running backs and NCAA rushing leader Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington, both teams will be running the living daylights out of the ball. It should be an exciting game, not to be missed.